In the article Correcting a Run-on Sentence With a Period or Semicolon, we discussed two simple ways of breaking up a fused sentence. But writing nothing but short, simple sentences isn't the best solution to the problem of run-ons. In fact, this might be a step backward, for run-on sentences often result when we first try to combine sentences in new ways.
Rather than shy away from new methods of sentence combining, we should continue to practice combining sentences according to various strategies. In other words, often the best way to correct a run-on is through one of the techniques of coordination or subordination introduced in the article What Is Sentence Combining and How Does It Work? Here's a brief explanation of how to use those techniques.
Correcting a Run-on Sentence Through Coordination
If you have run together two main clauses that are roughly equal in importance, try fixing the problem by coordinating them. Between the two main clauses put a comma and a coordinating conjunction: and, but, yet, or, nor, for, or so.
Run-on SentenceFor additional guidelines and examples, see Coordinating Words, Phrases, and Clauses.
Most feet aren't very good looking for ugliness mine have always been in a class by themselves.
Corrected Through Coordination
Most feet aren't very good looking, but for ugliness mine have always been in a class by themselves.
Correcting a Run-on Sentence Through SubordinationIf the two main clauses in a run-on sentence are not of equal importance, try subordinating one of them. That is, turn the clause of lesser significance into an adjective clause or an adverb clause.
Run-on SentenceHere we've used an adjective clause to correct the first run-on and an adverb clause to correct the second one. In fact, we can further reduce the adjective clause in the first sentence to an appositive:
Last night I had my first taste of sake it is a Japanese beverage made from rice.
Corrected Through Subordination With an Adjective Clause
Last night I had my first taste of sake, which is a Japanese beverage made from rice.
A Frenchman murdered two wives he didn't like their cooking.
Corrected Through Subordination With an Adverb Clause
A Frenchman murdered two wives because he didn't like their cooking.
Last night I had my first taste of sake, a Japanese beverage made from rice.As these examples show, one of the most effective ways of correcting a run-on (and creating a clear, concise sentence in the process) is to turn one of the main clauses into a subordinate clause or phrase. For additional advice on this method, see the following exercises:
- Sentence Building With Adjective Clauses
- Sentence Building With Appositives
- Sentence Building With Adverb Clauses
We've now considered four basic ways of correcting run-on sentences. The two simplest methods involve separating the main clauses with a mark of punctuation (a period or semicolon). The other two methods involve joining the two clauses correctly through coordination or subordination. If our writing is to be interesting and effective as well as simply correct, we should be adept at applying all four strategies.